Israel Scholar Communication Scrolls

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July 31, 2006

Contract to Run UK PubMed Central Announced

From a press release issued today by the British Library:

Scientists will be able to access a vast collection of biomedical research at the touch of a button thanks to a major new initiative that aims to promote the free transfer of ideas in a bid to speed up scientific discovery. Based on a model currently used in the United States, UK PubMed Central (UKPMC) will provide free access to an online digital archive of peer-reviewed research papers in the medical and life sciences.

The Wellcome Trust, as part of a nine-strong group of UK research funders, announced that the contract to run UKPMC has been awarded to a partnership between the British Library, The University of Manchester and the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI)....

UKPMC will ensure that the digital archive of published articles resulting from research paid for by any of the funding consortium will be freely available, fully searchable and extensively linked to other online resources....

In the initial stages of the UKPMC programme, the British Library will lead on setting up the service, developing the process for handling author submissions and marketing the resource to the research community.

The University of Manchester will host the service – on servers based at MIMAS (Manchester Information and Associated Services) – and will support the process of engaging with higher-education users.

EBI, which is part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), will contribute its biomedical domain knowledge and state-of-the-art text-mining tools to integrate the research literature with the underlying bioinformatics databases....

UK PubMed Central will provide an enhanced way of accessing published research, preserving it for prosperity and making it richly searchable in ways that are not currently available.

The first phase of the implementation will involve mirroring the American PubMed Central database. The partners will then establish the technical infrastructure of the service, including the facility for ingesting articles, and will also begin to engage more widely with the user communities. Launch of the service is scheduled for January 2007.

The UKPMC Funders Group consists of: Arthritis Research Campaign, The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, The British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, The Association of Medical Research Charities, The Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Executive Health Department, the Department of Health, The Joint Information Systems Committee, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.

Comment by Peter Suber:

This contract clears the way for nine UK funding agencies to provide OA (through different internal policies) to the research they fund. That's big step forward.

Note that just last week the ALPSP urged the British Library not to involve itself with UKPMC. Also note that two of the eight Research Councils (the BBSRC and the MRC) are members of the UKPMC Funders Group.

Update. JISC has issued a press release (August 1) on its own role as one of the nine funders of UKPMC.

Source: Peter Suber. Open Access News [31 July 2006) [FullText]

July 29, 2006

Columbia is Filling its Institutional Repository

Columbia University is making good progress in filling its institutional repository. From yesterday's announcement:

The Center on Japanese Economy and Business (CJEB) at Columbia Business School has become the first academic group within the University to contribute electronic versions of its publications to DigitalCommons@Columbia, the new University Libraries-sponsored “institutional repository” pilot program. The full back runs of three Center publication series --Working Papers, Occasional Papers and Event Reports-- are now available within DigitalCommons@Columbia, where they will be broadly available to scholars and researchers worldwide and where they will be permanently archived as part of the record of Columbia’s scholarly output. Future publications in these series will be deposited by CJEB staff directly into the DigitalCommons shortly after they are published....

“This valuable partnership between the Libraries and CJEB will help achieve the Center’s mission to promote knowledge and understanding of Japanese business and economics in an international context,” said Hugh Patrick, director of CJEB. “We are delighted to be part of such a significant digital enterprise in the scholarly community.”...

As part of its effort to begin collecting and archiving the University’s significant intellectual output, the Libraries will be expanding its institutional repository pilot program over the next year to incorporate electronic publications from other departments and academic groups....

“This effort is part of a new Libraries initiative to begin collecting, archiving and preserving the University’s scholarly and research output in electronic form,” said Stephen Paul Davis, Director of the Libraries Digital Program. “We believe our institutional repository program represents an important investment in Columbia’s overall ‘knowledge infrastructure,’ one that will enable us to better serve scholars’ needs now and in the future.” According to Davis, the initiative will be expanded over time to incorporate material from other departments, centers and academic groups.

Comment by Peter Suber: Kudos to Columbia's CJEB. This is exactly what research centers and institutes need to do in order to maximize the visibility and usefulness of their research output and share it with everyone who can make use of it. I hope it inspires other centers at Columbia and elsewhere to follow suit --and then I hope it inspires Columbia itself and other universities to take the same step. Will Columbia be the seventh university to mandate OA to the research output of the institution?

Source: Peter Suber Open Access News (29 July 2006) [FullText]

July 27, 2006

25 University Provosts Say Open Access is Good for Education, for Research, and for American Public

Scott Jaschik, Rallying Behind Open Access, Inside Higher Ed, July 28, 2006. Excerpt by Peter Suber Open Access News:

In an attempt to refocus the debate, the provosts of 25 top universities are jointly releasing an open letter that strongly backs the bill and encourages higher education to prepare for a new way of disseminating research findings....

The letter originated with the provosts of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, which includes the universities of the Big Ten Conference plus the University of Chicago....“I think the provosts are concerned that our scientists are doing important research, and their fields demand that they publish the research in highly respected journals, and then those journals become more and more expensive and control information in a way that is worrisome,” said R. Michael Tanner, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs of the University of Illinois at Chicago and one of those who worked on the letter. When universities can’t afford to keep all of their subscriptions, universities face the prospect that their own faculty members can’t read the findings of fellow faculty members - even when taxpayers paid for the research. “At a certain point, we can’t be held prisoner within the publication system,” Tanner said.

Tanner said he was worried about how the changes already taking place in publishing - and those that could potentially take place because of this legislation - would affect small publishers. But he said that the reality was that larger publishers were making large profits off universities like his.

Barbara Allen, director of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, said that she hoped the open letter would reshape the debate on open access. “The public debate on these issues seems to be driven by the commercial publishing sector, and the scholarly publishers were lining up with the commercial sector,” she said. The provosts wanted to make clear to Congress and others that “our needs as communities of scholars” aren’t necessarily the same as those of large commercial publishers....

[T]he provosts’ action marks a shift of sorts for academic leaders. Scholarly associations (many of which depend for their budgets on journal sales) have been against these kinds of changes - even as more and more of their members demand free, online access for information. The groups that represent colleges have also been less than enthusiastic about this push. The Association of American Universities - which includes most of the institutions whose provosts signed the open letter - hasn’t taken a position on the bill, and officials say that they see both benefits and problems with the legislation.

While the provosts don’t claim the legislation is perfect, they want university leaders to be decidedly on the “open access” side of the debate....

Comment by P Suber: Comment. This is big. It will lead to strong OA policies at many more universities. It will elicit endorsements from provosts not captured in the first wave. It shows that research institutions favor OA and that journal-publishing learned societies that oppose it are speaking more for their publishing arms than for their members. It exerts pressure on the Association of American Universities (AAU) to endorse OA and FRPAA or be left behind by its own members. (The AAU is a major voice in Washington on policies affecting research and education.) And finally, of course, it's decisive new support for FRPAA that is bound to be persuasive to members of Congress representing districts where these 25 universities are located.

July 25, 2006

Another call for a mandate at the NIH

Michael Stebbins and three co-authors, Public Access Failure at PubMed, Science Magazine, July 7, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). A letter to the editor. Excerpt by Open Access News Blog (10 July 2006):

As of January 2006, only approximately 3.8% of NIH-funded research papers published after 1 May 2005 had been submitted to the PMC repository. Low compliance only tells part of the story. More than half of the manuscripts available on PMC were published before 2 May 2005. Many reviews and commentaries, which fall outside of the scope of the request, and papers inappropriately made publicly available before the publisher’s public access embargo were also found in the database. This suggests either wide misunderstanding of the policy or deliberate submission of papers falling outside the scope of the database...

By NIH estimates, if only half of the eligible papers are submitted to the database, the cost would reach $2 million per year, or $62 per paper. Without a mandatory policy, however, submission of half of all eligible papers is unlikely. The NIH already provides close to $30 million annually to cover publication costs [at non-OA journals]. As the policy expands, archiving could cost an additional $3 million...

Both internal and external warnings that, if voluntary, the program would fail were outweighed by the NIH’s desire to allay the concerns of some publishers and those advocating public access policies. There is some good news, though. Authors publishing in some of the more influential journals in biomedical research seem to have a higher compliance rate than the estimated average...

NIH’s faltering experience so far indicates that public access policies must be mandatory and curated if they are to have any chance of success. It would also be wise for there to be a real demonstration of public desire or need before we expand it to other agencies. Unfortunately, this experiment has cost taxpayers money and the NIH credibility.

Comment by Peter Suber:

If the compliance rate for the NIH policy rose to 100%, the cost to the agency would be $3 million total, not "an additional $3 million" on top of the $2 million for 50% compliance.

The authors call for "a real demonstration of public desire". But they are assuming that the policy's goal of "public access" means "lay public" rather than "professional public" or "all who can make use of this research". In fact, researchers are the primary beneficiaries of the policy, and lay readers secondary. Some lay readers will want to read this literature, and will be able to do so, but most will benefit indirectly because researchers benefit directly.

July 23, 2006

Bill Gates Embraces the Knowledge Commons

David Bollier, Is Hell Freezing Over? Bill Gates Embraces the Knowledge Commons, On the Commons, July 21, 2006. Excerpt by Open Access News Blog (Peter Suber):

The only story more newsworthy than “man bites dog” has got to be “Bill Gates champions open sharing and collaboration.” Yes, the high priest of proprietary software – whose company has ruthlessly used its copyrights and patents to stifle competitive and innovation – is now recognizing the virtues of the knowledge commons…. for AIDS research, at least....
One is tempted to snort at the hypocrisy that Gates has not applied the commons analysis to the development of Windows and other Microsoft products, whose proprietary code continues to thwart innovation and competition around the world. But let us be gracious. There will be time enough to learn how Gates squares the IP positions of his foundation and those of Microsoft. Indeed, given the company's recent agreement to include a new feature in Word that makes it easy to use Creative Commonslicenses in text documents, change may be afoot.

In the meantime, in the interest of finding an AIDS vaccine, Bill Gates has shown real leadership. His foundation is willing to acknowledge a truth that most other IP ideologues staunchly refuse to admit – that an open knowledge commons can be profoundly generative and innovative, and should therefore be actively promoted. Promising research results are now likely to arrive much sooner than otherwise.

July 21, 2006

Open Access (OA) Momentum

R. Prasad, Open access to research papers gets a boost, The Hindu, July 20, 2006. Excerpt by Peter Suber Open Access News Blog:

Of what use are papers if they get locked up and are not widely and freely available? More so, if the research has been funded by the government. Despair not. A paradigm shift is happening in the way research findings that get published in any journal — subscription based or otherwise, become available. A bill tabled in the United States Senate — Federal research Public Access Act of 2006 — when passed, will enable federally funded research work that gets published in subscription journals to become freely and widely available to anybody....

The U.S. is not the only country to take this view. The case for making free access to results of government-funded research published in journals, is gaining momentum in other countries and by many funding agencies. In April this year, the European Union Commission urged funding agencies to guarantee open access to results carried out using the Commission's funds. In the U.K., the Executive Group of Research Councils UK (RCUK) issued a draft position statement last month on making research work funded by them freely accessible on the Internet....

Providing free access to papers has been the basis around which 'open access' journals such as the PloS Biology and PLoS Medicine were started in 2003... In an announcement last month, PloS stated that the author's fee has been hiked from $1,500 to 2,500 in the case of PLoS Biology, PLoS Medicine and PLoS Clinical Trials. A news item in Nature published online on June 22... stressed with glee that PLoS lost almost $1 million last year and that its total income from fees and advertising covered just 35 per cent of the total cost... While many agencies are already ear-marking funds for the 'author pays' concept, the new thrust by governments and funding agencies will mean that more and more authors will stand to gain from the funding agencies' largesse....

The Royal Society, which till recently was one of the most vociferous critics of making published papers freely available, has already demonstrated its willingness to adapt itself... If implemented well, it will turn out to be a win-win situation for all.

July 19, 2006

European University Association Taking Steps Toward Open Access

The European University Association (EUA) has created an Ad Hoc Working Group on Open Access. (Thanks to Eloy Rodrigues and Peter Suber Open Access News Blog.) From the EAU announcement (July 10, 2006):

In response to the growing interest in the issue of Open Access to Research Publications, a meeting was held 29 June to bring together EUA Council Members who had expressed a strong interest in the subject to discuss future actions. The meeting aimed to review the involvement of National Rectors’ Conferences in current developments on the issue and to consider what complementary role and actions EUA could take at European level to ensure universities’ interests are represented in the ongoing debate. Additionally, the authors (Françoise Vandooren and Mathias Dewatripont, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium) of the recent report “Study on the economic and technical evolution of the scientific publication markets in Europe”, undertaken for the European Commission Directorate General for Research, were invited to present their findings and recommendations to the meeting.

A strong consensus emerged at the meeting that European universities have a clear vested interest in becoming actively engaged in the debate as a stakeholder, not least because of the public funding implications of the markedly rising costs of scientific journals for university libraries, and the potential prospects and opportunities that ICT and digital publishing developments provide for open access. It was felt that EUA should respond to the increasing prominence of this issue – emphasised by key conferences to be organised by the European Commission and the German EU Presidency in 2007 - by undertaking awareness-raising initiatives and developing policy positions at European level. The overall recommendation of the meeting was that EUA should establish an “Ad Hoc Working Group on Open Access” (chaired by Sybolt Noorda, VSNU, The Netherlands) comprised of experts in the field nominated by the National Rectors’ Conferences. The Working Group membership and work programme will be presented at the next Council meeting in October 2006.

July 17, 2006

Another Portal of Free Online Journals

LivRe is a large portal of free online journals. From the announcement posted today to The Parachute: (thanks to Peter Suber OA News):

Nuclear Information Center (Brazil) maintains a portal to easy the identification and access to free journals available on the Internet. It is the Portal LivRe! (Free!), nowadays registering 2,525 free journals. I am announcing the implementation of a multilanguage searching interface. LivRe! now can be accessed in Portuguese, English and Spanish...

LivRe! is the portal developed by CNEN - Comissão Nacional de Energia Nuclear (Brazilian National Nuclear Energy Commission), through its CIN - Centro de Informações Nucleares (Nuclear Information Center), aiming to ease the identification and the access to free journals available on the Internet.The Portal covers scientific journals, magazines, bulletins and newsletters....The following data are available for each title: time coverage, language, secondary sources indexing the title, if it is a peer reviewed journal, optional comments and contents description, as supplied by the publisher.

Beyond displaying journals by initial letter of its title, searches can be done by title words and by subject field. Searches can be refined selecting only peer-reviewed journals or only journals indexed by any secondary source.

July 15, 2006

"Long Term Open Access to Electronic PhD Theses" in the UK

Theses unbound: consultation on a national e-theses service for the UK, an announcement from JISC, July 17, 2006:

The UK currently lacks a coherent national service to support access to, and preservation of, electronic PhD theses. At present, PhD theses are discovered by potential users in a variety of more or less ad hoc ways, and delivered to those users largely by physical document delivery. It is widely recognised that PhD theses are an under-exploited research resource, and that when they are made available electronically, their use increases substantially.

JISC has funded an 18 month project, EThOS, whose aim is to deliver a fully operational, easily scaleable and financially viable prototype UK online electronic PhD theses service, and supporting infrastructure. JISC wishes to consult relevant stakeholders in the higher education community about their views on a range of issues relating to e-theses, and on the extent to which the EThOS model is a suitable basis for a sustainable, national service designed to ensure long term open access to electronic PhD theses.

Further information on the proposed model and a link to the survey can be found at: Consultation.

Source: P Suber Open Access News [FullText]

July 13, 2006

The Future of Journals: Lets Anticipate and Prepare for Change

Rick Anderson, What will become of us? Looking into the crystal ball of serials work, Serials, July 2006. Abstract:

Is it possible to predict the future of serials work? Not with perfect accuracy, of course - but to do so imperfectly is both possible and imperative. We need to be looking ahead and asking questions like these: What are the implications of the open access movement for serials staff? Will the information economy of the future be driven by problems of scarcity or problems of abundance, and what does each scenario mean for the library? The areas in which we work are especially volatile, and both we and those we serve will benefit greatly if we learn how to anticipate and prepare for change, rather than simply reacting to it after it happens.

Source: OA News Blog (13 July 2006) [FullText]

July 11, 2006

Why Open Access is Not That Attractive to Individual Researchers?

Jan Velterop, Open access, quo vadis? The Parachute, July 12, 2006. Excerpt by Peter Suber (OA News):

[I]may be time to face up to some uncomfortable truths. Let's be honest, open access is just not all that attractive to individual researchers when they publish their articles. I say that with pain in my heart, but we have, as proponents of open access, singularly failed to get enough support among researchers. Not for want of trying. The proposition is simply not strong enough....

The benefits of open access 'to science' are apparently pretty distant to an average researcher. Now, I know that the case has been made that there are benefits at closer proximity to researchers' ids, such as increased citations to their articles, but they seem, grosso modo, wholly underwhelmed by those....

[Funders] have the power to impose OA on their grantees, and maybe the duty. And as they mostly pay the bill for library subscriptions anyway (indirectly, via overhead charges of institutions, but they pay nonetheless), they could simply re-route that money to OA article processing charges and reform publishing in the process....

There seems to be one thing standing in the way. Conflation of financial concerns with open access is, unfortunately, a major barrier to open access. If open access were a real priority, in other words, if the starting point would not so much be cost evasion, but the principle that for the amounts now spent on scholarly literature one could, and should, have open access, and if a widespread willingness were displayed on the part of funders and librarians to help flip the model, then I'm thoroughly convinced we would be much, much further with open access. And as for financial concerns, inherent in an author-side payment model is a much clearer scope for real competition, and that will put downward pressure on prices and upward pressure on efficiencies as any economist will tell us. Putting the horse before the cart might be a good idea, for a change.

There is of course the hypothesis, consistently put forward by Stevan Harnad (and Stevan is nothing if not consistent, you have to give him that), that we can have OA without reforming publishing and without damaging journals. Consistent, but unfortunately, that doesn't make it right. In his world of self-archiving, all peer-reviewed and formally published articles would be freely available with open access -- although perhaps in an informal version, but still -- and librarians would continue to pay for subscriptions to keep journals afloat. As evidence he puts forward that having effectively had a physics archive in which published articles have been available freely for a decade and a half or so, this has not discernably reduced the willingness of librarians to keep paying for subscriptions to the journals with the very same material. And indeed, he makes very plausible that in physices, over the last decade and a half, there has been no damage to journals....

And although Stevan may even turn out to be right -- only hindsight will tell and we have to keep an open mind on that -- for societies and other publishers just to take his word for it or even his 'evidence' that his extrapolations are valid, would be a serious dereliction of fiduciary duty, and sooo unnecessary. Because with some political will, publishing can be reformed, and reformed very quickly, without damage, or even the threat of damage, to anyone. And thus the problems could be fundamentally solved instead of treated with sticky-plasters such as OA through self-archiving (great as institutional repositories otherwise are).

Comment. I welcome Jan's argument for OA journals, but I don't accept his premise that OA archiving is unattractive to researchers. The evidence shows that most researchers are not familiar with it. According to Swan and Brown 2005: "Of the authors who have not yet self-archived any articles, 71% remain unaware of the option." When authors are aware of it, they show overwhelming support. According to Swan and Brown 2004: "Over 90% of open access authors said [free access to research information] is important." The case for OA journals, and for redirecting subscription funds to pay for them, can sit on its own bottom and needn't disparage the benefits of OA archiving.